Patrick "Paddy" T. McGahn Jr., an old-fashioned Atlantic City-area power broker whose reach extended from local to national politics and who was equally comfortable in boardrooms, backrooms and courtrooms, died Sunday at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point following a stroke.
Though he never held office, the 72-year-old was an influential player in national Democratic circles, a prominent attorney and much-decorated Korean War veteran who used bluff, bravado, skill and his outsized personality to advance himself and his clients.
His top achievements include helping bring casinos to Atlantic City and engineering the ouster of the Republican machine that controlled Atlantic County politics for decades.
Dennis Tuohy recalled the day Mr. McGahn, his boss at the law firm of McGahn, Friss, Franks and Tripician, crashed a Washington, D.C., party hosted by the late Pamela Harrison, a dean of the Democrats.
Stopped at the door of her Georgetown brownstone by a white-gloved butler, the servant pointed out that Mr. McGahn had not been invited.
"The hell if I wasn't. Where's Pamela?" demanded Mr. McGahn, pushing his way through the doorway and raising a ruckus. Harrison came to see about the commotion and she returned Mr. McGahn's greeting, "Pat, what the hell are you doing out there? Come in!"
Tuohy recalls Mr. McGahn then greeting the gathering of leading Democrats warmly by name, working the room, trading greetings and personal quips as he went.
"You'd have thought Pat was throwing the party," recalled Tuohy, adding McGahn, earlier in the same day, had gotten two clients, both professional football players, in to watch the Supreme Court deliberate by claiming the two men were defendants in a case the court was hearing.
"He knew how to have a lot of fun. Pat played hard and he took no prisoners. He practiced and played the same way. You knew where you stood with him. There was no need to guess," Tuohy said.
A Margate resident, Mr. McGahn served as a Marine in Korea for three years during the early 1950s, earning the Navy Cross, the second-highest honor bestowed on Marines for bravery; the Bronze Star with a combat "V"; three Purple Hearts; two Presidential unit citations and a Navy unit citation for leading a platoon and later an infantry company.
He was appointed to the Korean War Memorial Commission in 1996 by Gov. Christie Whitman. In recognition of his service, he will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
Mr. McGahn was one of five heroes of the Korean war featured in Readers Digest, which described his exploits as a 2nd lieutenant with the 1st Marine Division, including his refusal to get treatment until the wounded men he commanded had been cared for. In the service he was nicknamed "Piano-wire Paddy" for the silent weapon he used against his enemies in hand-to-hand combat.
Brusque, buzz cut and bulldog tough throughout his life, he came back from the war with shrapnel near his spine and ridges on his scalp where he had been grazed by bullets.
He generally shook hands with his left as a result of his injuries, but those infirmities did not hold him back.
"He was a good friend and one of the most astute lawyers and politicians I have ever known," said his former law partner of eight years, Joseph Gindhart, the former chairman of the Atlantic County Democrats. "He could negotiate a business deal better than anyone I have ever seen. He was a dynamic individual and that came out in everything he did."
Mr. McGahn was politically active in Atlantic City, especially on casino issues, as well as on the national Democratic scene. He was a major fund-raiser nationally and a contributor to his friends and allies in Atlantic City-area politics.